Sunday, 8 September 2013

Hiking kit - functional or fun?

Maybe I have an unhealthy relationship with some of my hiking gear, but while we were out today I was pondering how some of the kit serves a purely functional purpose whereas I have formed a close personal attachment to other bits.  I appreciate that you may want to give me a wide berth on the fells after reading this...

For example my Sigg water bottle full of juice is very lovely, but is purely functional.  When I am thirsty it is there to quench my thirst.  My flask of tea on the other hand goes way beyond that.  There is an almost unspeakable joy in sitting atop a mountain in the warm sunshine with a hot flask of tea.  Something a flask of juice does not even come close to.

Then there's my cardigan.  It's nothing fancy, it didn't come from any outdoor clothing store and it most certainly is not about to win me any style awards, but it's absolutely perfect for stuffing into a small corner of the rucksack and, being made of an odd combination of bamboo and cashmere, offers that extra bit of warmth on spring and autumn hikes.  It's not that I don't like my waterproofs, it's just that they're, well, different.

And tell me, is there anything finer than a well worn in pair of old leather walking boots?  Walking socks may come and go and very nice they are too, but with a pair of trusted boots you have a history together; muddy bogs traversed, tricky summits scaled and stinky summer hikes endured.  They're a part of you, moulded perfectly to your feet with never a blister or a cross word.  When they die it's almost impossible to throw them away and they take up residence at the back of your cupboard; you know you should do something with them but you just can't bear to part with them.

And last but not least, my map and compass.  Now my trusty Silva compass has had its moments and, since I learned to keep it away from my mobile phone, has rarely missed a beat but, lovely as it is, I have no wish to sit and gaze lovingly at it for any period of time.  My OS Maps on the other hand I could sit and pour over with either a cup of tea or something a little more lively for hours on end.  I love maps; new maps or old maps, I am just happy to sit reading them, picking out new routes and footpaths to enjoy in the future or discovering forgotten routes and buildings from the past. If like me you love a good old map, then pour yourself a brew and lose yourself on this site: Old Maps Online.  I can waste days on that site (don't say I didn't warn you!)

Steve thinks I'm slightly bonkers (though to be fair he does have evidence aside from this) so please, tell me I'm not alone.  Does anyone else love their hiking gear too?